4 out of 4 stars
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We have all heard the expression, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” well don’t judge it by its title either. I was a bit skeptical and unsure about this book but I am sure glad that I opened it. The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid is hands down an amazing read.
This book is broken down into 3 parts. The first part follows the life of Duke, the Sword Swallower. His story begins as a teenager in the 1960s. Duke had a troubled childhood and jumped at the opportunity to travel with the circus. It was there that he created a family with the circus freak sideshows, which included Gonad the Giant, Lucy the Monkey Girl, Wubby, the Puppe family, the Remarkable Half Man and Christie Betty, the world’s most tattooed woman. Throughout the years, Duke became a legend and reached celebrity status because of his sword swallowing skills and because he was tattooed from head to toe. His story is one filled with addiction to meth (or his medicine as he calls it) hardships and mistakes while staying true to himself and always living in the moment until the very end.
Part 2 begins in the 1980s and follows the life of Gary Robinson, a lost soul. He is unable to feel a connection with anything or anyone but his tale is a riot and feels like a never-ending party. The story follows Gary through college, where he graduates but didn’t learn a thing other than how to hold his liquor and snort cocaine. He ends up in a small town in California where he continued going from job to job and party to party. At age 35, Gary was an alcoholic with no purpose in life when he hit rock bottom. It was then that he met Duke.
The last part of this book is truly mind-blowing and heart felt. Part 3 is the story of Duke and Gary’s remarkable friendship. Duke is now in his 70s and unable to perform like he once did. He doesn’t have much time left and he wants to teach Gary to dive into life full heartedly and to seize each moment. Will Duke succeed? Or will Gary’s tale end too soon?
Without a doubt, I rate this book a 4 out of 4. It is very rare for a book to be able to move a reader but this one does just that. One of the main points that Duke stresses throughout the book is to be comfortable in your own skin while living in the moment because tomorrow isn’t promised. I think this concept is forgotten and overshadowed on a daily basis because we become so bogged down by the little things in our busy lives. This book forces you to remember that life is a gift and we should not take any day for granted. Also, this author is gifted. He was able to combine the use of crude humor and the taboo topic of religion to write a beautiful and unique story about one lost soul that was found because of another.
I would recommend this book to anyone with a sense of humor and is not easily offended that is ready to a read a book where there is never a dull moment. I would not recommend this book to a young audience or those that are sensitive to foul language and drug use.
The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid
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